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  • Les HIgh

Two prospects announced; DOT looks at rail study

The end of last week saw a flurry of business and industrial activity in Columbus County, not only centered around the former Georgia-Pacific plant, but also with the announcement of two new business prospects, code-named Project Bridal and Project Medical.

The announcements came at the Columbus Jobs Foundation membership kick-off drive Thursday night at the Museum of Natural Sciences at Whiteville. Both business prospects are headed by Columbus County natives who have started successful companies in other sections of the state and nation and want to bring part of their operations back to the county.

Friday, a team from the North Carolina Department of Transportation Rail Division headed by Paul Worley visited the former Georgia-Pacific site and met with the management team of Project Black and executives of RJ Corman Railroad to discuss rail service to the plant. Project Black, a yet unnamed company, hopes to open a large-scale industrial operation at the former Georgia-Pacific plant.

DOT plans to launch a study to determine the feasibility of running an approximately 15- to 18-mile section of new rail from the Corman line in Columbus County to the main CSX line in Bladen County. The section of rail would provide a direct route to the state port in Wilmington from Southeast Regional Park. Much of the abandoned rail bed east of Whiteville has been quit-claimed by private land-owners, necessitating a new, northern route to connect to the main CSX line.

Also present Friday were management team members with S&A Railroad Ties, which is already importing ties into the county by rail. S&A would be a potential supplier to Project Black, but it is also bringing ties here for recycling regardless of Project Black’s status. Thursday night, approximately 150 members and guests of the Columbus Jobs Foundation heard a presentation by Greg Lovette, a Tabor City native who is CEO of RadixBay, a Charlotte-based IT consulting company that recently opened a branch in the Tabor City Industrial Park.

Lovette set the table for the announcement by Columbus Jobs Chairman Rick Edwards of two other county natives who want to bring parts of their companies home. Project Medical is headed by a West Columbus High School graduate who has started a successful medical-contracting company in Texas. She would like to open a center in Chadbourn, and Thursday she toured several potential sites in Chadbourn with Chadbourn town offi cials and Economic Development Commission Director Gary Lanier. Jobs through the company could pay up to $40,000 or more a year.

Project Bridal is headed by a Whiteville native who is operating a successful company in the Triangle and would like to bring its manufacturing component to Columbus County.

Also Thursday, the Columbus Jobs Foundation hosted a luncheon for UNC-Wilmington Chancellor Zito Sartarelli. The Jobs Foundation and county hope to strengthen ties with the university for job creation.

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